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lost to the city

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DAY 1.

After a few years of living in Seoul, Jeongguk is able to recognize a pickpocket when he sees one. The constant brief looks around themselves, the scanning of bags and coats, the sitting by a corner until he’s ready to cross the wagon and swipe everyone’s wallets.

It’s not like Jeongguk was expecting Berlin to be free of crime, not at all. But it’s his first day, and, really? He’s already bumping into a pickpocket?

Something Jeongguk can’t help but notice is that, like him, the guy is East Asian. Maybe that’s what dragged Jeongguk’s eye to him at first—the guy was just sitting there quietly, not really doing anything to catch anyone’s attention. After having been traveling around Europe for the last couple of months, Jeongguk has come to realize he feels oddly welcome when he stumbles upon Korean tourists, or Korean emigrants. His guess is that the guy is Korean as well, but he could be entirely wrong.

He knows he should let it go but then he notices the guy standing up, and he knows what’s about to happen next. The tram wagon is crowded—it’s early in the morning, and there aren’t only Berliners going to work or class, but also a lot of oblivious tourists that are starting the day early to make the best of it. To his right, Jeongguk sees a group of tourists speaking loudly in a language he doesn’t recognize. A little further down, there’s a girl of around his age too focused on her phone to notice what’s going on around her. A businesswoman with a leather briefcase, a pair of elderly ladies that talk distractedly without paying much attention to their handbags.

As soon as the pickpocket starts moving and before Jeongguk can register what he’s doing, he finds himself moving forward and bumping into him. He doesn’t know what’s going on—he’s never been one to play hero, but he guesses he just feels sorry for the couple of old ladies. He’s not about to let some guy rob people in broad daylight if he can. And, this is far better than making a scene.

“Sorry,” Jeongguk lets out in Korean—he has a theory to prove—as the stranger says Entschuldigung.

Then the guy looks at him, tilting his head a little as if he’s processing what Jeongguk just said. “It’s nothing,” he replies, also in Korean after a moment. “You’re good.”

Jeongguk can see that the guy is ready to move again, so he decides that if he’s done this much, he might as well go all the way. Standing a little straighter and making sure his phone is in his hand where it won’t be stolen, he says, “I wasn’t expecting to find someone else from Korea on my first day in Berlin.”

“You’re a tourist?” Taehyung asks then.

Jeongguk nods. He does look like a tourist. He can’t afford to stay in hotel rooms, choosing hostels with shared rooms instead. He doesn’t like to risk leaving his luggage back at the hostels, even if he’s staying in cities for more than one day and knows his belongings would be locked safely away in a locker. So, instead, he lugs his monster of a backpack with him every day, with all of his clothes, his laptop, his camera… Everything. It doesn’t bother him anymore that he carries the weight around on his back, but he does look very touristy.

“Yeah, I am,” he confirms. “You don’t look like one, though.”

And he really doesn’t. There’s no luggage that Jeongguk can see, not even a backpack or any kind of camera, and tourists love their big, obnoxious cameras. He would know. Jeongguk is pretty sure he’s a Berlin resident, which would go with his theory of him being a pickpocket. He highly doubts someone would casually pickpocket while touring places they don’t know, but hey. Who knows? There are people for everything.

“I live here,” the boy replies. “I’ve been living here for a few years now.”

Jeongguk nods, a little relieved now that he can sense the other’s will to talk as well. It’s a little complicated to attempt to make conversation with someone who’s clearly reluctant, so he’s actually glad the stranger wants to talk to him, too.

Plus, he’s sort of cute. Jeongguk hates to admit it because he only approached him to prevent everyone’s wallets from being wiped, not to flirt, but he is attractive. He has chestnut hair, pulled back from his forehead with a bandana that allows Jeongguk to see his strong, thick eyebrows. His eyes are big and brown, so, so rich that Jeongguk almost feels tempted to stare into them despite the cold edge they have to them. He has a strong nose and thick, full lips, and there’s something about him so ridiculously beautiful it makes Jeongguk want to take a second, third glance.

And that’s just his face. Jeongguk can’t help but let his eyes wander down for a split second, just enough to take into the guy’s thin, lean frame. He’s just as tall as Jeongguk, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. What really gets to Jeongguk are his legs, though—they’re so long, so pretty.

He tries not to stare because he doesn’t want to seem like a creep. The guy is probably going to think that he’s a pervert and that he just bumped into him to try and flirt, Jesus.

“And how have you adjusted?” he asks, trying to be conversational. This is just small talk, right? He’s not going to seem like a creepy perv for keeping a conversation going. “I really don’t know if I could live outside of South Korea. Everything is so different here.”

The stranger shifts a little bit closer to him, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by Jeongguk. He knows that just because he’s Korean, he’s not going to be any different with him. He’s a pickpocket, and Jeongguk is basically offering him his wallet on a silver platter right now. But when you’re traveling like Jeongguk is, you learn how to take precautions—all his documentation is in a credit card holder in his backpack, along with most of his money. The thing about Berlin is that he bought this Berlin Pass thing so he can go in all museums and on all the city transport for free during his stay here, so in his wallet there’s no more than around €30, just enough for him to eat while he’s out and about. His backpack is closed with a lock, and the passcode for the lock is engraved in his memory, so he’s good to go.

“Oh, well. I’m doing alright,” he comments, waving his hand as if to dismiss it. “After the first couple of months, it gets easier to grow used to the change in culture.”

Jeongguk tilts his head a little. He’s hyper-aware of the guy’s proximity now, so he casually puts his hand over his pocket where his wallet is. “What’s your name?” he asks. “I didn’t catch it.”

“Taehyung,” the other replies, his lips curling up into a smile that Jeongguk doesn’t quite understand. He wonders if Taehyung knows that his hand in his pocket right now isn’t accidental, not at all. Maybe he’s aware that Jeongguk knows what his intentions are. “Yours?”

“I’m Jeongguk,” he says. “Good to meet you.”

“Likewise,” the guy replies, smiling again. This time it looks more sincere, less predatory, like his previous smile was. He also notices how Taehyung leans back a little, resting against the wall of the wagon. “So, Jeongguk… what are your plans for today?”

“As much as I can manage, really. I don’t have a fixed itinerary, just places I want to see, and I try to squeeze as many of them in as I can,” Jeongguk replies. “For today, I was hoping to see Alexanderplatz, the Museum Island, the Cathedral, the Brandenburg Gate, the Holocaust Memorial and Tiergarten. If I have time I’d also like to see the East Side Gallery later today.”

“That’s quite the day,” Taehyung says with a nod. “Trying to go to most of the big landmarks on your first day, huh?”

“It’s my duty as a tourist,” Jeongguk says with a smile. “Plus, they’re all relatively close. I think I can manage, if I don’t stay at the Island for too long.”

“You’re going to want to stay for long,” Taehyung says with a smile. “If I were you, I would leave East Side Gallery for tomorrow. Are you planning to see Hackescher Höfe?”

Jeongguk nods enthusiastically. He planned his visit to Berlin while he was on the train from Copenhagen, and while looking at reviews on TripAdvisor, Hackescher Höfe especially caught his attention. The reason why he decided not to visit on the first day is because he knew it’d be busier, and he wanted to take his time there.

“Yeah, I was going to go tomorrow,” Jeongguk explains.

Taehyung seems like he’s deep in thought for a moment, biting on both of his lips before he speaks. “I have a proposition but you can decline if you want,” he starts. Jeongguk is intrigued, so he nods, urging him to continue. “I can show you around Berlin for the next couple of days if you want me to. You tell me what you want to see, and I make sure you get to all of those places. Efficiently.”

The suggestion catches Jeongguk off guard. Even if Taehyung was being friendlier and more open than at the beginning of their conversation, the last thing Jeongguk was hoping for is Taehyung to offer to show him around the city. His mouth falls open and, for a moment, he’s unable to say anything in response.

“And what do you get in return?”

As soon as the words leave his mouth, he feels like facepalming. That’s probably the rudest, worst thing he could say, isn’t it?

Luckily for him, Taehyung seems to take no offense as he replies, “I get to be a tour guide around Berlin again. Trust me, that’s enough for me.”

There’s something about Taehyung’s enthusiasm that makes Jeongguk smile. He clearly loves the city a lot and is happy to accompany Jeongguk.

“Won’t it be a bother?” he asks. “Like—maybe you have work, or classes. Are you sure it’s not a problem?”

Taehyung waves his hand. “I have nowhere to be,” he replies, not going into detail. That makes Jeongguk frown a little. Does he just pickpocket? When he sees Jeongguk’s confusion, Taehyung adds, “I work as a waiter in an Italian restaurant, but I have the evening shift, so I’m free during the day.”

That relieves Jeongguk a little. He doesn’t know why, but he wouldn’t like the idea of Taehyung living off what he steals, only.

“An Italian restaurant?” Jeongguk asks, laughing a little. “Damn, that’s a cliché.”

“Hey!” Taehyung replies, hitting Jeongguk’s arm softly. He’s laughing as well, so Jeongguk knows he didn’t offend. “I’ll have you know, the food is pretty decent and we’re also cheap. Ideal for tourists. You should have dinner there, sometime.”

“Only if I get a discount,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung roll his eyes.

It’s not long before they’re at Alexanderplatz, so both of them get off of the tram. As soon as they step into the square, Taehyung turns into an overly enthusiastic tour guide, except he actually looks passionate about it and like he genuinely enjoys showing Jeongguk around. They walk around the square and approach the World Clock. Jeongguk, being the typical tourist he is, has to take a picture of the Seoul time so he can send it to his parents.

After that they approach the Television Tower. There’s something incredibly charming about Taehyung saying Fernsehturm, and if it wasn't because he wouldn’t understand anything, Jeongguk would ask Taehyung to talk to him in German.

“Were you planning on going up?” Taehyung asks, nodding in the direction of the tower.

“Ah, I don’t know,” Jeongguk says. “I wasn’t planning on it, really. It’s expensive and I don’t know if it’s worth it.”

“It really is,” Taehyung rushes to add. “The view is spectacular. Come on, let’s go in! I’ll pay for your ticket.”

“Oh, that’s kind of you but you really don’t have to—”

“You can’t leave Berlin without going up the Fernsehturm,” Taehyung says, wrapping his fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist and tugging. “Come on, let’s go.”

Jeongguk doesn’t offer more resistance, somehow mortified by Taehyung’s sudden act of generosity. True to his word, Taehyung does pay for both of their tickets despite them being expensive. And he was totally right about it being worth it—the view literally leaves Jeongguk speechless. It’s right then that he decides it’d be a good time to take his camera out of his backpack. His phone takes good pictures, but this view deserves more than that.

After that, he doesn’t put his camera back in his backpack. They walk from the Television Tower to the Cathedral where he takes even more pictures. At some point, Taehyung offers to take pictures of Jeongguk in front of the landmarks. Jeongguk still doesn’t fully trust Taehyung, despite him having paid for the tickets. In all fairness, he wouldn't trust many with his expensive camera. Still, he’s a little reluctant to give him the camera, and Taehyung seems to notice, since he offers to take them with his own phone and then send them to him at a later time.

Jeongguk feels awkward after that for a little while, but that quickly goes away as they get to the Museum Island. Jeongguk has free access because of the Berlin Pass but Taehyung has to pay for his own tickets. Jeongguk feels a bit guilty since Taehyung is spending more than he would in normal circumstances, but it was him who insisted on coming, right? Jeongguk didn’t even ask him, he offered himself.

Plus, Taehyung seems radiant as he strides through the museums. He tells Jeongguk the stories behind the pieces they see, and whenever he looks at the art he gets a special glisten in his eyes—Jeongguk recognizes it, it’s pure passion.

At some point Jeongguk can’t hold back, and he directs his camera to Taehyung, snapping one shot of him. He got his profile while he looked up at one painting, neck arched and eyes wide open. There’s something incredibly stunning about it—the way Taehyung’s long eyelashes curl up, the slope of his nose, the way his pink lips are slightly parted. He looks like he was born to be photographed, like he was born to be looked at. Taehyung is not that different from the art they’re surrounded by, Jeongguk thinks.

He can’t stop after that. It’s not like he’s completely ignoring the exhibitions and just focusing on Taehyung, but truth be told, his SD card is filling up pretty fast thanks to him. Taehyung must have noticed since he doesn’t seem like the kind to be oblivious to an obnoxious camera in his face, but he doesn’t comment on it.

That is, until they’re on their way to the Brandenburg Gate. The walk from the Museum Island is enough for them to get to talking, and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to bring it up this time around.

“So,” he starts, “Do you take pictures of everyone without asking for their permission?”

Jeongguk snickers a little. He’s, surprisingly, not ashamed that he’s been caught. “Sometimes,” he replies. Truth is, he doesn’t. He only takes pictures of beautiful people, and more so, beautiful people he knows, but he’s not going to tell Taehyung that. “Can’t help it. I’m a photography major.”

“Really?” Taehyung asks, his interest suddenly piqued. “I should have guessed. That camera looks obnoxiously expensive.”

Jeongguk laughs cheerfully at that, throwing his head back. His camera is expensive, but Jeongguk doesn’t regret a thing. After all, it’s his work tool and his greatest hobby. The investment was so, so worth it.

In all honesty, he wasn’t expecting for Taehyung to press further, but he does. Taehyung asks, “So you’re still in college?”

“No, I’m not,” Jeongguk says, shaking his head. “I graduated earlier this year and decided to take a gap year to travel before I started working. I had some money saved because I worked while I was studying, so…”

“That’s awesome,” says Taehyung, nodding a little. “And do you know what you’d like to do once you’re back home?”

Taehyung is so full of questions, and even if that’s a trait that Jeongguk didn’t see coming from him, he finds it extremely endearing. After Jeongguk explains to him that his best friend owns a studio and has offered to give him a spot, since he’s already overworked, Taehyung keeps asking questions—what his favorite thing to photograph is, whether it’s hard or not to edit pictures, if it’s something he always knew he wanted to do…

“I was considering taking a photography course when I was studying back in Korea,” Taehyung confesses. “But I never really ended up doing it, and right now I can’t afford it.”

The confession makes something in Jeongguk hurt a little. Taehyung is still cheerful and bubbly as he speaks, but the reality of his words is harsher than that. Jeongguk has never been in that situation—his parents were always able to pay for his education and maybe even some of his whims, and now he can afford to take a free year and just travel. He knows that the reason he can afford it is because he worked all through college and still keeps selling some of his photographs now, which is fair enough, but he still is privileged.

“I would offer to teach you but I have the irrational fear that everyone who touches my camera that isn’t me will break it,” Jeongguk confesses.

Taehyung tilts his head and gives him an odd look before he bursts into laughter. “I see,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “Let’s not risk it. I would feel guilty if I broke it, and I know for a fact I don't have the kind of cash needed to fix… that.”

It’s not until they get to Tiergarten that both of them realize how hungry they are. Surprisingly enough, Taehyung offers to buy both of them something at a food stall. Jeongguk certainly didn’t see this coming but he’s not going to complain. Even if there’s a big chance that the money that Taehyung is using to buy them stuff doesn’t… come from honest sources. He’d rather ignore that.

“What are we eating?” he asks as he follows Taehyung, who looks rather sure of himself.

“Currywurst,” he replies. Before Jeongguk can ask, he explains, “It’s basically sausage covered in curry and sauce. It’s a fucking miracle, you’re gonna love it.”

“What if I don’t like curry?” asks Jeongguk, teasing.

Taehyung stops in his tracks then, hands going to his hips as he lives Jeongguk a pointed look. “Then we can’t hang out together anymore,” Taehyung replies, tone serious but Jeongguk can see through it. “Seriously? Who the fuck doesn’t like curry?”

“I was joking,” Jeongguk replies. Taehyung rolls his eyes. “What?”

“Nothing, you jokester,” Taehyung says then. “Come on! Let’s get our food, and then we can sit in Tiergarten to eat and pretend we’re on a date.”

That makes Jeongguk blush, so he’s glad Taehyung turns around and starts walking ahead of him again. Jeongguk doesn’t even get why Taehyung said that. That was extra, unnecessary, and somehow flirty. Jeongguk didn't come prepared for random pretty boys he meets during the mornings on the tram to flirt with him.

The day flies past without Jeongguk even noticing. After lunch they hung out by Tiergarten for a long while, before deciding to move to their next destination. They leave the Brandenburg Gate for last, since Taehyung revealed he particularly likes it later in the day. He takes a few pics of it, then a few more pictures of Taehyung, and also poses for him when he insists on taking a few of him.

“You need proof you have been here,” Taehyung insists. “Gosh, you’re a terrible tourist.”

It’s then that Taehyung signals to the Starbucks on the corner and wraps his fingers around Jeongguk’s wrist, tugging him in the direction of it.

“But why? It’s just mediocre overpriced coffee,” Jeongguk complains. He’s had his fair share of Starbucks during his life, if he’s honest.

“The sweet drinks are amazing,” Taehyung protest. “I say this without the fear of sounding like an average white girl: I love Starbucks.”

“And can you afford Starbucks?” Jeongguk asks, playfully.

Ouch,” Taehyung replies, feigning offence. “I mean—not really. But today is a special occasion! Let’s go.”

They get there, and after Jeongguk tells him what he wants, Taehyung orders for the both of them. As he had been doing all day, Taehyung reaches for his own wallet to pay, but this time when he opens it the smile falls off his face. He mumbles something in German to the barista, but it’s clear what has happened—he has run out of money.

Out of instinct, Jeongguk reaches for where his own wallet should be, in the left front pocket of his jeans. Unsurprisingly enough, it’s not there. Jeongguk knew what he was exposing himself to when he accepted to spend the whole day with Taehyung, really. First thing he knew, even before he knew his name, was that he was ready to steal the wallets from everyone on that tram.

Before Jeongguk can say or do anything he sees Taehyung pull out a credit card, offering it to the barista. He doesn’t look at Jeongguk then, but Jeongguk can still see the embarrassment on his face and the way the tips of his ears go red.

They’re both in silence until they bring them their orders, and then they move to sit at a table where it's quieter. Taehyung isn’t meeting his eyes, and that makes Jeongguk’s stomach feel sort of heavy. He knows that he shouldn’t feel sorry for Taehyung, that instead of that he should feel angry Taehyung took advantage of his trust. Well, he’s not one hundred percent sure, but there’s… a very big chance. And Taehyung’s reaction right now is very telling.

“Taehyung…” Jeongguk starts.

Taehyung doesn’t let him finish. Before Jeongguk can even register he has moved, Taehyung is dropping something on to the table. A closer look shows Jeongguk that the something is, indeed, his wallet.

“I would try to play it out as me pranking you but we both know that’d be a lie,” Taehyung says. He’s still not looking at Jeongguk, eyes staring holes into the wooden table.

“I know,” Jeongguk says. “Why are you giving it back?”

Taehyung sighs, burying his face in his palms for a moment. “Because—I feel like shit for taking it,” Taehyung says. “I just—I shouldn’t have. I like hanging out and I had fun today, but I was going to take it today at the tram before you started talking to me, so I guess I just… felt like I had to? Which is not very morally correct to say. But everything’s still there, I didn’t even open it.”

“I mean, there was only €30 in it,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung doesn’t reply. “It’s fine. I had already assumed you’d do it. I practically took it from my own pocket and put it in yours when I accepted to spend the whole day with you.”

Jeongguk doesn’t mind, really. Which is fucked up, considering the guy he has in front of him tried to steal from him. But hey, he gave it back. He could have done nothing and they both would have pretended that Jeongguk didn’t know exactly where his wallet was.

“You really still want to talk to me?” asks Taehyung. This is the first time in the conversation that he has raised his eyebrows to look at Jeongguk, confusion written all over his face.

“I mean, yeah,” Jeongguk says. The thought of not talking to Taehyung and not spending the rest of his time in Berlin with him is oddly disappointing, but Jeongguk would rather not give it much thought. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because I stole from you.”

“You didn’t steal anything. Plus, I knew you’d take my wallet from the moment I bumped into you on the tram.”

“And so why’d you do it?” Taehyung asks.

Jeongguk can understand why Taehyung is so utterly confused. He himself is confused by his actions, but for some reason, he can’t bring himself to be mad at Taehyung. He’s not angry, not in the slightest. He understands that good people do bad things, and that sometimes it's easier to judge and assume the worst than it is to listen and understand.

“I don’t know,” Jeongguk replies. There’s no logical answer to that question, if he’s honest. There’s just something about Taehyung that dragged him in, and that keeps dragging him now—otherwise, he would have left as soon as Taehyung gave him his wallet back. Whatever it is that made him do it, however, he knows he’s grateful for it. “Why do you do it?”

Taehyung takes a deep breath through his nose. Jeongguk knows that Taehyung might tell him to fuck off. They’ve known each other for less than a day, and Taehyung doesn’t owe him any explanation. Morally? Maybe, since he tried to steal his wallet. But practically? Yeah, that’s not how the world works.

“Because my paycheck is shit,” Taehyung replies. Jeongguk wasn’t expecting him to, so he looks at him inquiringly. “It barely covers my rent and living expenses. I came to Germany because I wanted to help my mother and my sister financially. But the only job I could find was as a waiter in a fucking Italian restaurant, and it wasn’t enough to send anything home. That’s why.”

“Taehyung…”

“Please, let’s not talk about this anymore,” Taehyung says. He’s begging Jeongguk with his eyes as he adds, “I know it’s not right. But I’m not doing it because I want to, Jeongguk. I need to.”

Jeongguk nods. He’s not going to push Taehyung any further, not when he not only looks uncomfortable with the direction the conversation is going in, but also because he has directly asked Jeongguk to stop. At least he was honest about it, even if he didn’t want to go into detail.

Contrary to what Jeongguk was expecting, things easily go back to what they were before the incident. Jeongguk cracks a few jokes in an attempt to reduce the tension between them, and be it because they’re ridiculous or because they were actually funny, Taehyung ends up laughing at them.

“So, you’re staying here for three more nights?” Taehyung asks at some points.

Jeongguk shakes his head as he swallows down his coffee. “No, actually,” he reveals. “I got here last night, but I only had time to pick up my Berlin Pass before walking a little and going to my hostel,” he says. “So I’m staying tomorrow night as well, and the day after tomorrow I’m taking the train in the evening.”

“Oh,” Taehyung replies. For a moment Jeongguk can’t help but think that he looks kind of disappointed, but after thinking about it for a moment, he realizes how stupid of him that was. Why would Taehyung be disappointed? Maybe because he didn’t get to spend his days touring around Berlin. “And where are you off to after this?”

“Prague,” Jeongguk replies. “Have you ever been there?”

Taehyung laughs, although this time it doesn’t sound cheerful, nor does it reach his eyes. “Oh, I wish,” he ends up replying. “I wish.”

When Taehyung announces that he should get going so he can make it to work in time, Jeongguk can’t help but feel a little sad. The day flew by so fast that Jeongguk still has trouble believing it’s already over. He certainly saw less than he would have if he was on his own, but the truth is, he’s very happy. He hasn't travelled with someone else since the days of high school trips, and it’s refreshing. Sometimes, traveling on his own gets a little lonely.

The only thing comforting him is that they agreed to meet again tomorrow. Same hour, on the tram, and if for some reason they don’t meet there, in Alexanderplatz. Jeongguk is almost ready to say his farewells when Taehyung asks, “Wait, where are you going to have dinner?”

“I was just going to stop by a café near the hostel,” Jeongguk replies, honestly.

“What if you eat at the restaurant I work out?” Taehyung suggests. “I can’t promise a discount, but I can promise cheap pizza.”

Jeongguk thinks about it for a moment. It’s not that he doesn’t want to—he does—but he’s still unable to find his way around Berlin and it’s getting late.

“I don’t know…” he starts, watching Taehyung jut out his bottom lip in a pout. “I really don’t know how to get back to my hostel from there, Taehyung.”

“I can show you,” Taehyung insists. “You have free transport with that pass thing, and there are trams everywhere. Please? I promise I won’t let you get lost.”

For some reason he doesn’t quite understand, the combination of Taehyung begging and the pout on his lips makes him incredibly weak. He ends up giving in, Taehyung’s mouth splitting into a big smile before starts walking.

Truth is, the restaurant Taehyung works in is not too far away from the area they’ve been in today, which makes Jeongguk feel more comfortable about traveling back alone. It’s not the fanciest place Jeongguk has ever been to, but it’s nice. Taehyung drops him at the front entrance, and while one of his co-workers guides Jeongguk to a table, Taehyung goes through the back and changes into his uniform.

While he waits for a waiter—hopefully Taehyung—to come take his order, Jeongguk takes a look at the menu. Like Taehyung promised, the prices aren’t too high, and they adjust quite well to Jeongguk’s tourist budget. Plus, he hasn’t really paid for anything today.

“Good evening and welcome to Da Nicola,” says a now more than familiar voice, making Jeongguk raise his eyes from the menu. “My name is Taehyung and I will be your waiter for this evening. Can I get you something to drink?”

Before replying, Jeongguk takes in Taehyung’s appearance. He’s now wearing slacks, and a part of Jeongguk feels kind of sad because they don’t hug Taehyung’s legs quite as well as his skinny jeans did. His thin t-shirt and denim jacket have been replaced by a white shirt, and around his neck there’s a thin, red scarf that matches the little hat on his head, the bandana now gone.

Jeongguk can’t help but think he looks absolutely adorable.

“Cute,” Jeongguk says after shamelessly checking him out, Taehyung smiling as he taps on his notepad with his pen. “Ah, well. To drink I'll have a Coke. Regular one, please.”

“Not a Diet Coke kind of guy, huh?” asks Taehyung, the corner of his mouth tilting up in a half-smile as he scribbles down on his notepad. “Do you know what you want to eat already, or should I come back in a few minutes?”

“I was hoping you could give me a recommendation, actually,” Jeongguk says. The menu is not only in German, but also in English and even French, so he can understand it. He just wants to see what Taehyung would recommend to him.

“Well, I actually eat Hawaiian pizza because I’m a chaotic evil,” Taehyung replies, making Jeongguk snort. “I think you would like the one with jalapeños,” he comments, then.

“That’s not very Italian,” Jeongguk says.

“Most Italian restaurants here are as Italian as me, and you should know that,” comes Taehyung’s response, a little grin on his face. “But yes, jalapeños. You look like you would like jalapeños.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jeongguk asks. When Taehyung doesn’t reply and opts to just raise his eyebrows instead, he adds, “Do you not like them?”

“I can’t handle spice,” replies Taehyung, honest. Jeongguk laughs. “Can I get you anything else, sir?”

Jeongguk almost coughs on air at Taehyung calling him sir. He knows it’s etiquette, but still—he wasn’t ready. Especially since the rest of the conversation has been relaxed, without any of that protocol.

“No, no,” he replies, feeling the tips of his ears get warmer. Judging by Taehyung’s smirk, he has noticed. “That will be fine.”

“Amazing,” replies Taehyung, picking up Jeongguk’s menu. “I’ll be right back with your drink, then.”

He turns around to leave, and Jeongguk discovers that there is a silver lining to Taehyung’s slacks—they make his ass look great, even perkier and rounder than in his skinny jeans. Not that he was staring at Taehyung’s ass before. He just… happened to notice.

Since it’s dinner time, the restaurant gets busier and busier in no time. When Taehyung comes back again to give him his drink he doesn’t stay, but it’s understandable. He’s working, after all.

Jeongguk edits the few pics he has on his phone while he waits, but there’s not a lot, so unsurprisingly, he’s done pretty soon. He hopes this doesn’t make him a creep, but he can’t help but let himself watch Taehyung as he works. He doesn’t understand much, but it’s still tremendously endearing to watch him go from one table to the other, all wide, cheery smiles as he talks to the customers.

It’s not too long until Taehyung comes with his food. He not only has the pizza Jeongguk ordered, but also a small plate with some pieces of garlic bread. Jeongguk raises his eyebrows at him.

“It’s on the house,” Taehyung explains, replying to Jeongguk’s wordless question.

“You’re taking from your salary to feed me?” Jeongguk asks, giving Taehyung a playful look.

“I don’t need to,” Taehyung says. “I’m sure I can make enough tips today to pay for your entire meal.”

“That’s cocky,” Jeongguk replies, but he can’t help but laugh a little at the other’s comment.

“Not cocky,” Taehyung replies, resting one of his hands on his hips. “Just realistic. I'm charming.”

“You’re so full of yourself,” calls Jeongguk as Taehyung starts to leave. He turns around and sticks his tongue out at Jeongguk, and he swears his heart jumps in his chest.

The food is nice, at least for the given price. He’s never been picky, especially not when it comes down to pizza. Still, Jeongguk feels like a part of himself is trying to convince his brain that it’s better than it is in reality, purely because this is the place Taehyung works at. Even if he’s not the one making the pizzas, just serving them.

He feels oddly sad when he finishes his food and asks Taehyung for the check. When he’s paying he makes sure to tip generously, just because. He’s proving Taehyung’s point, isn’t he? He really is that charming.

“I wish I could accompany you to your hostel, but…” Taehyung starts when Jeongguk stands up to leave.

“You’re busy, your work is more important than walking me to my hostel,” Jeongguk says, although the thought of Taehyung walking him there and spending a little more time together sounds appealing. Still, he’s not going to convince Taehyung to leave in the middle of his shift.

“Oh, he’s responsible,” Taehyung says with a giggle. “Do you remember how to get back?”

Jeongguk nods. On their way here, Taehyung gave him indications and told him which trams he had to take in order to go back to the hostel. Plus, even if he didn’t remember, he’d always have his loyal Maps app.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, then,” Jeongguk says.

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to do. Part of him wants to give Taehyung a hug, but they aren’t that close—they’ve known each other for a day. But just waving and walking away feels too impersonal, especially since Jeongguk feels so comfortable around him.

Luckily for him, he doesn’t have to make the decision as Taehyung takes one step in his direction and pulls him into a warm hug. He pats his back a few times as Jeongguk returns the embrace, “See you tomorrow. Same time, same place!”

Jeongguk pulls back then and gives Taehyung a bright smile before leaving the restaurant. Is it odd if he says he misses him, despite having known him for so little time? Walking around the Berlin streets without Taehyung’s company and his incessant—and more than welcome—chattering is a little bit lonely for Jeongguk.

(And if the skin on his back tingles where Taehyung touched him before he left, no one needs to know.)

 

DAY 2.

Jeongguk is a morning person. He has been all his life, even before he ventured into his long trip around Europe, but ever since that only intensified—an early morning means he’ll get to see a lot that day.

And when he wakes up at around seven in the morning that day, he realizes that it also means he’ll get to see Taehyung again. The thought makes him excited and ready for the day, giving him the energy to get out of the bed and take a shower. He also gets to have breakfast and transfer the pictures from his camera to his laptop, clearing the SD card for a new day of touring.

Time goes by torturously slowly but finally he has to leave for the tram. When he gets there, the same as the morning before happens—Taehyung is already there, resting against the wall of the wagon. But today he’s not looking around himself, trying to figure out what the best way to swipe everyone’s wallets is. Today he’s looking at Jeongguk as he approaches, a wide smile on his face.

The tram is not as packed today, probably because it’s Saturday. That makes it easier for Jeongguk to spot Taehyung. He looks amazing again, but that doesn’t shock Jeongguk—he’s wearing skinny jeans again, this time with a white shirt and a jacket on top.

“Good morning, sunshine,” Taehyung greets, running a hand through his fringe. He's wearing a headband today as well, but instead of it keeping his hair back, it's settled on the top of his forehead as his fringe falls over it. “How did you sleep?”

“As well as one can sleep in a room shared with strangers,” Jeongguk jokes. His nights have been restless ever since he started traveling because of this reason, but he’s grown used to it. He doesn’t feel tired anymore. “How did you?”

“Like a baby,” Taehyung replies, smiling cheekily at him. Something about it makes Jeongguk rolls his eyes at him, playfully.

“No need to look so smug,” he says, Taehyung laughing in response. Before he can even consider if he’s breaking some sort of boundary he reaches forward, touching Taehyung’s jacket on his chest area, “Where’d you get this?”

The jacket is very different from what Jeongguk is used to seeing, both in stores and on people around him. It’s black but there’s embroidery all over it, making beautiful patterns. From what Jeongguk can feel under his palm, it’s also terribly soft.

“I sew the embroidery on myself,” Taehyung replies, honestly. Jeongguk raises his eyebrows. “What? I’m a talented sewer,” he says, making Jeongguk laugh.

“Nothing, nothing,” Jeongguk says. Taehyung hasn’t pulled back from his touch, but he still feels like he needs to remove his hand in order for things to not get awkward, so he does. “I’ve just never seen a jacket like this one before.”

Taehyung smiles a little, looking pleased with himself. “Well, thank you, that was the point,” Taehyung replies, tilting his head a little. “I was trying to make myself look nice for you.”

Jeongguk feels his cheeks instantly heat up at the comment. He tries to say something but his words come out as a mumble, which makes Taehyung smirk as his face gets even redder. Jeongguk ends up looking away, suddenly feeling shy.

“Jeonggukie,” Taehyung calls, almost in a whine. “Your ears are all red.”

Taehyung knows full well what he’s doing, flustering Jeongguk like that. And Jeongguk—well, he’s trying to make sense of things. He’s not oblivious, really. He’s aware of the attraction he feels for Taehyung, just like he’s aware that Taehyung is kind of flirting with him.

“You’re terrible,” he says, making Taehyung laugh lightheartedly. “I mean it. You’re truly terrible.”

Loyal to their word, their first stop that day is Hackescher Höfe. Jeongguk is glad he got to see most of the places he wanted to visit the previous day, because that means he can indulge a lot more today. The neighborhood they’re visiting is stunning, and it’s easy for Jeongguk and Taehyung to get lost in its streets, exploring every corner. This time around, Jeongguk doesn’t even try to play it cool whenever he wants a picture of Taehyung—he straight up takes it.

Taehyung smiles at him, and eventually starts posing. There’s just something effortlessly beautiful about Taehyung, all the time. Whether he’s walking around, looking at the camera and giving Jeongguk a peace sign, or sipping on the coffee he ordered while they’re at the outdoor seating area of a café.

“I thought you didn’t like coffee unless it came with unhealthy amounts of sugar and cream,” Jeongguk comments, ogling Taehyung’s cappuccino. A stark contrast from… whatever it was that Taehyung ordered the day before at Starbucks.

“I don’t,” Taehyung confesses. “But this suits the picture. Can you take a picture of me while I pretend I don’t notice? I think that’d look nice for Instagram.”

“Are you serious?” Jeongguk asks with a laugh. He’s about to take his camera to his face, but Taehyung interrupts him, gesturing with his hand to stop.

“Wait! Use a phone camera,” Taehyung replies, Jeongguk arching his eyebrow at him. The fact that Taehyung is asking him to use a phone camera when he has the option of using a camera like Jeongguk’s is insulting. “That brings up way too many flaws and imperfections.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, a small smile appearing on his face. “What flaws?” he mumbles, getting his phone from his pocket and opening the camera. Taehyung giggles at the comment, and only then does Jeongguk realize that it sounds somewhat flirty, but he was just being honest—there are no flaws on Taehyung’s face, if you ask him. Imperfections, maybe, but what’s perfect is boring, and what’s boring is never strikingly beautiful, as Taehyung is. But flaws? No way.

After that, they finally exchange numbers, texting each other the pictures they have on their phones. Jeongguk finishes Taehyung’s cappuccino while he edits the pictures on his phone, continuously turning to Jeongguk for advice.

“You’re the photography expert here, aren’t you?” Taehyung asks with a cheeky smile when Jeongguk asks why he won’t stop asking.

In the end, Taehyung shows him the result with a big mouth stretched into a boxy, proud smile. Part of Jeongguk wishes he could have taken a picture of it, but he’s glad he hasn’t. That means the look on his face is reserved for Jeongguk’s memory only.

It’s easy to let himself get lost in the streets of Berlin with Taehyung. But even easier than that, is his ability to get lost in Taehyung himself. In his laugh, in the way he runs his fingers through his hair whenever his fringe is annoying him, in the way he teases him. And there's just something that pulls Jeongguk in like a magnet. Every time Taehyung smiles at him it feels like there are a thousand secrets he's keeping from him, and Jeongguk wants to unveil them one by one.

At some point after they've eaten lunch, when they're moving to visit the Parliament building, Taehyung reaches for his hand again. It's something he does a lot, wrapping his nimble fingers around Jeongguk's wrist and tugging at his arm, guiding him. But now he doesn't do that—he reaches lower, intertwining his fingers with Jeongguk's.

Jeongguk feels like his heart is going to beat its way out of his chest. There's something about this gesture that makes simply holding hands with Taehyung far more intimate than kisses with other people are. Jeongguk looks at him from the corner of his eye, and for the first time since they met, Taehyung looks nervous.

“My hands are clammy,” Jeongguk says. He doesn't know if he was just being brutally honest or if there was some hidden intention to make Taehyung laugh, but if there was, it seemingly works. “Sorry.”

“Don't apologize,” Taehyung says, giving his hand a squeeze. Jeongguk's heart does a pirouette in his chest. “I love your clammy hands.”

It's that moment that Jeongguk comes to the conclusion that he was always meant to hold Taehyung's hands in his. He doesn't intend to be cheesy, but their palms fit perfectly against each other, fingers interlocked tightly as they walk. Taehyung's hand is bigger than his, and his fingers longer. Something about it makes Jeongguk feel safe, even if it sounds stupid.

They giggle a lot more now. Taehyung shifts a lot closer to talk to him, but never close enough. It's making Jeongguk feel a little dizzy, both with happiness and something else. He can feel himself grow infatuated by the second, but how could he not? He's sure everyone who has ever been around Taehyung could understand the whys of it—he’s a charmer.

“Why Berlin?” asks Jeongguk when they’re walking towards the East Side Gallery. The question comes so out of the blue, nothing in their conversation leading up to it, but Jeongguk has been curious for a while.

“Because everyone has a job in Berlin,” Taehyung replies. “Well—not everyone. But you get me. It's easier to find something, even if it's not what you came here for initially.”

“And what did you come for?” Jeongguk asks.

That's a more loaded question, he knows. There's something incredibly intimate about sharing what one’s dreams and passions are, what ignites one's soul. But Jeongguk has already told Taehyung what his are. And maybe because Taehyung already knows what his heart aches for, he wants to learn the same about him.

He doesn't even notice it when he starts rubbing circles on the back of Taehyung's hand with his palm. Maybe he instinctively started doing it to comfort him. Judging by the little grin that Taehyung offers before he starts talking, it works.

“I would like to say fashion,” Taehyung confesses. “But at the same time, I know this isn't the best place to pursue it. I'd probably have better luck with it back in Korea since I had good references, but—I needed a job urgently. And I didn't have the time to try to get a dream job, you know? I just needed to work and get paid.”

“Well, you did tell me you were a good sewer,” Jeongguk comments, making Taehyung laugh as he bumps their shoulders together. “How come you needed a job that badly?”

“You're asking too many questions,” replies Taehyung, dodging it. “Ask me later, or tomorrow. Ask me when I'm sleepy or drunk. I'll reply then.”

That makes Jeongguk laugh lightheartedly. He doesn't know how he'll end up with Taehyung when he's sleepy, but he still agrees.

Eventually, they get to the East Side Gallery. Since it's still pretty early they take their time, taking in the art before going from one piece to the other. Taehyung tells him a lot of little, random facts both about the works and their authors, making Jeongguk smile with each one. It's obvious Taehyung has visited a lot, or read about it a lot.

The ones he especially likes, he takes pictures of. And like before, Taehyung jumps in and Jeongguk gives him an impromptu photoshoot. He really is a natural in front of a camera, posing with a confidence that Jeongguk never had on that side of the lens, especially in public. The bright colors of the wall behind him contrast against his clothes and hair, but never overpower him. Jeongguk is fascinated.

And he lets Taehyung take pictures of him with his camera this time around. He makes him wear the strap around his neck, since he doesn't know how much he trusts Taehyung to not drop it, and Taehyung laughs at the awkwardness of his poses.

“You look like such a tourist,” Taehyung laughs as he takes a few pictures, the shutter clicking.

“How am I meant to not look like one?” Jeongguk asks. “I’m posing in front of one of the most famous touristic spots in Berlin. This screams tourist!”

“That's an excuse! I was posing there, too,” Taehyung reminds him. “Give me face.”

“Taehyung!” whines Jeongguk, feeling himself blush.

“Don't sound so scandalized, boo,” Taehyung teases, walking towards Jeongguk to give him his camera back. “You just looked stiff. Have some fun with the camera.”

Jeongguk doesn't miss the pet name. He was already red, but his cheeks get even warmer at that. Boo.

“Not everyone is a model,” Jeongguk says, Taehyung cackling at the comment. “I have fun with the camera. When I'm the one taking the pictures.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes at him, turning around as he keeps walking. Jeongguk snaps another picture.

Jeongguk is sure that by the time they get to the end of the gallery, it has taken them triple the time than it’d take the average tourist. He doesn’t mind, though—he has time to spare. Besides, he feels like he’s making the most out of every day, even if he could be visiting more landmarks and tourist spots. Maybe it’s Taehyung’s presence that makes him feel that way.

He knows that Taehyung needs to work this evening as well, but he was expecting him to leave at around the same time as yesterday. That’s why he’s surprised when the other says, “Ah, shit. I need to leave for work soon.”

Before he can stop himself, Jeongguk juts his bottom lip out on a pout. “So early?” he asks. He knows he sounds disappointed, but, ah—fuck it. It’s not like he’s going to see Taehyung again after tomorrow night, he tells himself. Why would he conceal what he feels for him, then? He’ll be out of his life before he even has time to make sense of his attachment.

Because, that’s the thing. Jeongguk feels a sense of attached to Taehyung, even if they have known each other for such a short amount of time. He can’t pinpoint why he’s feeling like this, but Taehyung and he clicked well together, almost as if they were pieces of a puzzle. And it’s wonderful, if you ask Jeongguk—he loves feeling so eased by someone else's sheer presence. But it’s also sort of sucky, considering he’s going to leave Berlin soon, and Taehyung doesn’t seem like he has plans of going to South Korea anytime soon.

He tries to quiet his thoughts down for a little while, at least until Taehyung and he have parted ways. The last thing he needs is to make himself unreasonably sad. Well, sadder.

“I start a bit earlier on weekends,” Taehyung explains, looking down at his feet. “Gotta make those dollars, right?”

“You don’t make dollars,” Jeongguk says, making Taehyung laugh cheerfully. His cackles quieten down, and when that happens they both end up looking at each other in silence. It’s not awkward or uncomfortable, but Taehyung is looking at him like he knows something Jeongguk doesn’t, so he feels the need to ask. “So… I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Absolutely, yes,” Taehyung says, nodding. Jeongguk can’t help but smile. “I can text you to meet up? Like normal people do.”

“Okay, that’s probably a better idea, yeah,” Jeongguk replies, grinning.

It’s almost like neither of them really wants to leave. It should be the moment for them to say their goodbyes then, but Taehyung says, “So, last day. Do you have something you want to see?”

“I’d rather not make any plans,” Jeongguk says, honestly. “I trust you. Just take me to your favorite spot here, and I’ll be more than happy.”

“That’s good,” Taehyung says, smiling a little at Jeongguk. “I can definitely do that.”

They’re both quiet for a moment, but then Jeongguk is reaching forward for a hug. It’s different this time around, with Taehyung’s hands around his shoulders as he wraps his arms around Taehyung’s middle, circling his waist. The stay like that for a moment, and Jeongguk wonders if Taehyung’s heart feels as heavy as his right now.

Jeongguk swallows down thickly once they pull away, not knowing what to say next. Taehyung’s hand slides down Jeongguk’s arms, gently caressing his wrist before he interlocks their fingers. Jeongguk, who had been closely following the path of Taehyung’s hand down his arm, looks up and meets Taehyung’s eyes then.

“I guess I'll see you tomorrow...?” Jeongguk says. He intends for it to come out as an affirmation, somehow confident. Instead, his voice tilts up at the end, sounding like a question.

Taehyung smiles, probably amused by Jeongguk's awkwardness. “I've already told you that you will, Gukkie,” he replies, Jeongguk's heart skipping a beat at the nickname. “I'll text you, I promise.”

Jeongguk knows. He's just repeating himself at this point, isn't he? He's so nervous even if he knows he shouldn't be. He’s walked with Taehyung's hand in his all day, and is now more than used to the feeling of his soft skin against his own, the weight of their palms together.

But somehow, this feels different from that. And maybe the reason why is because of what he's picturing in his head, because of what he wants to happen—he wants to pull at Taehyung's arm, to tug him closer, to kiss him. He wishes he was brave enough to do it.

“Okay," Jeongguk says, nodding. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, then. Have a nice evening at work.”

Taehyung gives him a small grin and they both let go of each other's hands, Taehyung blowing him a kiss before he turns around and leaves for work. Jeongguk just stays there watching him walk away for a moment. The farther away from him that Taehyung is, the more hyper-aware of how fast his heart is beating and how flushed his face is he gets. He lifts one hand and touches his cheeks, feeling them burn under his palm. Was he like that when Taehyung and he were saying goodbye? Yes, very probably. And did Taehyung notice... God, Jeongguk hopes he didn't.

Before doing anything, he pulls his phone out and opens the Maps app, checking where he needs to go in order to get back to the area he knows. He decides then it's better to get an early night, having dinner somewhere near the hostel before he goes back and takes a shower. If he's lucky enough, there won't be a lot of people there and he’ll be able to take a long-ish shower.

As he walks to the tram station he needs to go, he lets his mind wander back to Taehyung. Jeongguk is not oblivious to his own feelings, he knows that he feels some kind of attraction towards Taehyung. And at this point, given the way he acts around him, he's sure that said attraction is a little bit more than sexual right now. Jeongguk is not naïve, he doesn't believe in things such as love at first sight. But he also knows himself, and he knows that he's developing a crush on Taehyung—a big, fat crush.

He also knows that if they had a little more time, said crush could turn into so much more. Taehyung is not only almost annoyingly beautiful, but he's also funny and smart, talented and creative, hard-working and selfless. Even if he doesn't have perfect morals and has resorted to something like pickpocketing. Jeongguk can feel himself falling deeper as every second they spend together goes by. And to know that tomorrow will be the last time he sees Taehyung, and that after that they will probably never talk again—

Jeongguk shakes his head. Right now, he doesn't want to think about goodbye.

DAY 3.

Funnily enough, Jeongguk's last day in Berlin turns out to be the sunniest.

After a long, restless night where he woke up—at least—five times, Jeongguk decides to desist on his fruitless attempt to sleep at around six in the morning, when he gets dressed and silently leaves the hostel room. After that, he busies himself trying to find a place to have breakfast, trying to keep his thoughts at bay.

(He totally doesn't feel his chest get tighter and tighter every time he checks his phone and sees no notifications, not at all.)

He finds a nice café with tourist-friendly prices and WiFi, and then busies himself transferring more pictures from his camera and phone to his laptop, editing some of them while he waits for Taehyung to text him something.

It’s at half past nine that his phone dings from where it’s resting next to his laptop, the screen lighting up with a notification. Jeongguk would be embarrassed about how quickly he reached for it if it weren’t for the fact that he’s too busy screaming internally about it being a text from none other than Taehyung.

i’m sorry i didn’t text earlier, i fell asleep… TT-TT

can we meet in thirty mins? i’ll text you an address

;-**

Jeongguk licks his lips before they stretch into a wide, wide smile. It's impossible to deny that his heart has started beating faster now, the perspective of getting to see Taehyung again in thirty minutes very, very appealing.

And then there's that face. Not only it is winky, but also kissy. Jeongguk feels something like vertigo in his stomach, and he wonders if this is what people refer to as butterflies all the time. If you ask him, it feels like a free fall.

He cracks the knuckles of his thumbs before he types a message back, just a short text agreeing to meet up at the address that Taehyung sent him right after. It's very close to where his hostel and the café he's in right now are, so that's convenient enough for him.

He feels himself get restless, too. He can't wait to meet Taehyung again, even if they saw each other just the evening before. For some reason, he feels like he can't get enough of the other. He knows he should be scared of feeling something like this for someone he barely knows, especially because of the intensity of it, but he doesn't care. He'll have the time to worry about that once he's in Prague. As of now, he's going to enjoy whatever time he has left with Taehyung.

Jeongguk gets there before Taehyung. There is just the corner of a street Jeongguk doesn't recognize. It's not an area he's familiar with, but having reached this point, he doesn't really care. There are some things he hasn't seen yet, yes, but he's very happy about his visit to Berlin. He has seen the parts of Berlin that tourists love. Now, it's time for him to get to know the part that Taehyung has grown to love.

(Besides, if he doesn't see everything, he has an excuse to come back.)

As soon as Taehyung arrives and Jeongguk sees him, he's just as blown away as he was the two previous mornings. He looks softer today, cozier. There's nothing holding his chestnut hair back, that falls freely over his forehead and gets in the way of his eyes. He's wearing a light oversized jumper, big enough to swallow him whole despite his height and the broadness of his shoulders. His black skinny jeans are back, hugging his legs and showing off his ankles where they are rolled up. But what makes Jeongguk feel like his chest is too tight to breathe is the big, big smile on his face.

“Hi!” Taehyung greets when he's close enough for Jeongguk to hear him, waving a little. “I can't believe you got here before I did.”

“I value punctuality,” Jeongguk says, teasing Taehyung. “You are three minutes late.”

“I’m sorry, but I only count minutes in increments of five,” Taehyung says, giving Jeongguk a coy smile. “If it’s less than five minutes late, it might as well not be late at all.”

“God, your employer must be happy,” Jeongguk says, Taehyung flipping him off jokingly.

The part of the city that Taehyung shows him today is different from what Taehyung has been focusing on during his trips, but he must admit he loves it. Taehyung shows him his favorite coffee shop, modest in comparison to the ones they’ve been hanging out in during the last couple of days. He takes him to vintage thrift shops, and Jeongguk finds out that most of the clothes Taehyung owns come from these.

“I think the clothes here have a really unique touch, and it’s guaranteed you’re not going to run into someone wearing the same thing as you,” Taehyung explains as they look at the clothes. Jeongguk can see Taehyung wearing them without looking terribly outfashioned, yeah, but himself…? Not so much. “Plus, I customize a lot of my clothes. I’d be less sad about ruining something that cost me €3, than say €30.”

Jeongguk gets himself a jacket, struggling to pack it in his backpack while Taehyung looks at him with an indecipherable smile on his face. Taehyung doesn’t really buy anything—he comes here too often, he says. Jeongguk wonders if there’s some other reason behind it. Maybe that for the past few days, instead of swiping wallets on the tram he has been touring the city, spending money he doesn't have to spend.

They walk and walk until Jeongguk’s legs are heavy, and he’s marveled to see how Taehyung still seems as energetic and as vivid as always. There’s something about the way he walks, Jeongguk has come to realize. He lands so gracefully on the tips of his feet, sometimes. Almost as if he was about to float. With every step he takes, he looks like he’s going to start flying away.

No matter how much Jeongguk wishes he could slow time down, he doesn’t manage to. He worryingly watches how the sun gets lower, how its rays become weaker. Taehyung starts checking his phone more and more often, and Jeongguk knows that it’s because the time to leave for work is coming soon. The dreaded time finally comes, Taehyung sighing as he looks at his screen.

Jeongguk already knows what’s coming before Taehyung announces, “I… I need to leave for work.”

“Ah,” is all Jeongguk can manage. He’s aware he sounds stupidly upset, but he doesn’t have it in him to try to look cheerful when he’s not. “Already?”

Taehyung laughs, and Jeongguk replays it in his mind a million times. He’s afraid this might be the last time he gets to hear him laugh. The past three days have been something else for Jeongguk, and he’s sure everyone would laugh at him if he tried to explain how close to Taehyung he feels right now. He doesn’t want to leave Berlin—he doesn’t want to leave Taehyung. What if this is the last time they see each other in person? It’s not too long until Jeongguk goes back to South Korea, and Taehyung… Jeongguk has no clue. He hasn’t asked, and he’s too afraid to ask in case the answer is not one he’ll like.

His heart feels incredibly heavy, and making sense of his emotions turns hard. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to leave Taehyung’s side.

“Yeah, already,” Taehyung says. Maybe it’s Jeongguk’s mind playing tricks on him, but he swears Taehyung sounds a little sad, too. “Don’t look so sad, Gukkie.”

Jeongguk doesn’t reply, because he frankly doesn’t know what to say. Of course he’s sad. He wonders if Taehyung feels what he feels, if he can sense the connection between them too. Jeongguk refuses to believe that it’s just a product of his imagination. There’s electricity every time they touch. Call him a romantic, call him a dreamer, but Jeongguk feels like the whole purpose of his trip here was meeting Taehyung.

No matter how many places he has been to and how many people he has met, Taehyung stands out above the rest. Jeongguk feels like Taehyung and the way he makes him feel is what he was looking for when he started this trip. Perhaps, he’s what Jeongguk has been looking for his whole life.

He doesn’t dare voice it, so instead, he just pulls Taehyung in for a hug. Taehyung holds him so, so tight he feels like he’s going to choke, but Jeongguk not even once complains. Instead, he embraces Taehyung just as strongly, holding him close.

I don’t wanna go.

“I’ve had the absolute best time with you these last few days, Jeongguk,” Taehyung says then, voice muffled because of the embrace. “I wish you could stay for longer.”

“I wish I could stay, too,” Jeongguk mumbles, voice feeling small. Taehyung wants him to stay, he wants to stay. He just wishes things weren’t as complicated as they are. “I’m going to miss you so much. Seeing Berlin with you has been the best part of the trip, and I know nothing is going to top it.”

“Hey, hey, no,” Taehyung says, pulling back and taking Jeongguk’s face in his hand so he can look at him. “Don’t say that. You can make great memories now, still. Please, enjoy the rest of your trip. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone far more interesting than me.”

Jeongguk scoffs. He highly doubts that’s going to happen—Taehyung is probably the most fascinating person he has had the pleasure of meeting. But what he knows for sure is that, even if he met fucking Bill Gates, he wouldn’t find him half as interesting as he finds Taehyung. He’s deeply infatuated, and at this point, denying it would just be lying to himself.

“That’s not gonna happen, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says, voice soft. “No way.”

It’s almost as if something between them shifts in that moment. Jeongguk suddenly forgets they’re on a street with people around them, people seeing them and probably looking because of the curious scene. All he can see, hear and feel is Taehyung—the way his eyes reflect the colors of the sunset, the gentle touch of his hands on Jeongguk’s cheeks, the rhythmical sound of his respiration.

Like in the most cliché of scenes, Jeongguk’s eyes go down to Taehyung’s lips, only to find them parted and inviting. Jeongguk’s own mouth tingles when he imagines what Taehyung’s pink, pink lips will feel like on his. When he looks back up, he knows—Taehyung wants this just as much as Jeongguk himself does.

Jeongguk may not be brave enough to tell Taehyung all he’s feeling inside, but he is to close the space between them and pull Taehyung into a slow, sweet kiss. Taehyung’s cheeks slide down from his cheeks to his chest, and Jeongguk takes that moment to cup the back of Taehyung’s neck, fingers playing with his hair.

Contrary to his belief, his heart doesn’t beat out of his chest when Taehyung’s lips and his touch. Rather than that, he feels incredibly calm. Taehyung’s lips move against his slow and gentle. It’s so unrushed that it feels like they have all the time in the world, which is exactly what they’re lacking now—time, Jeongguk wishes they had more time.

Taehyung snakes one of his hands between their bodies and holds Jeongguk’s hand in his, giving it a squeeze. It makes Jeongguk giggle, Taehyung’s own mouth stretching into a smile as he rests his forehead against Jeongguk’s.

“We could have done that before,” Jeongguk mumbles, making Taehyung laugh.

“I like our build up, don’t you?” he asks, pecking Jeongguk on the lips sweetly. “Although I do wish I could have kissed you more.”

They stay like that for a few moments, but soon enough Taehyung is pulling back. It almost hurts to breathe, but Jeongguk forces himself to look at Taehyung one last time. At least, for now.

“I’ll miss you,” Taehyung says. “We need to text each other. For real. Maybe not now since you’ll be busy traveling, but—”

“We absolutely need to text,” Jeongguk interrupts. Taehyung grins. “I’ll miss you.”

Taehyung looks at him with an expression Jeongguk can’t make sense of. “You’re a goodie, Jeon Jeongguk.”

“I’ll see you, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says. “Hopefully soon.”

Taehyung smiles, but it looks sad. Again, Jeongguk wishes things were easier, but there’s little he can do right now. He’s sad to watch Taehyung walk backwards as he waves at him, what they had during these three days coming to an end like this.  “See you, Jeongguk. Hopefully, soon.”

 

     ▲

 

The idea comes to Jeongguk like a flash. His train isn’t leaving until early in the morning, so he has a lot of time to spare. He was planning on eating near the train station and just waiting inside for the time to take his train. But he hasn’t respected his original plan at all during his stay in Berlin, so why start now?

Instead of having dinner near the train station like he intended to, Jeongguk decides to go somewhere he has been to before—the restaurant Taehyung works in.

He knows this just comes out of despair—he wants to see Taehyung again, and he's willing to look desperate if that's what it takes. They had already said their farewells, but it didn't feel right to Jeongguk. He felt like their chapter wasn't over, yet. Like there was something missing.

And perhaps this instinct is just his own mind playing tricks on him, trying to convince him of what he wants to believe. But he's always been a guy to follow his heart, so he changes his route immediately.

It's already been a few hours since Taehyung and he parted ways, but for Jeongguk it felt like longer. Taehyung has been his travel partner during all of his time in Berlin, so time without him feels heavier, and definitely on the more boring end of the scale.

Luckily for him, he still remembers the name of the restaurant. Thirty minutes later he's there, but when he looks through the windows he doesn't see Taehyung.

Jeongguk's heart shatters as his mind fills with paranoia. He can't help but think that maybe Taehyung didn't want to see him for longer, so he lied about having work today instead of straight up telling him. The thought of that happening makes a knot tightening in Jeongguk's throat, and he's about to leave before one idea crosses his mind.

Taehyung did tell him that he spent his breaks at the staff exit, at the back of the building. It's such a small and random detail to remember, but Jeongguk holds on to it with everything there is in him as he circles the building, looking for said staff exit.

His heart almost bursts when he finds it. There, sitting on the stairs that lead out of the door, is Taehyung. He has his uniform on and a lollipop in his mouth, gaze lost somewhere before him.

And despite him seemingly being in a state of daydreaming, Taehyung still spots him even before he has the chance to let his presence be known.

“Jeongguk?” Taehyung asks, taking the lollipop out of his mouth as he stands up. Jeongguk takes a step closer. Taehyung’s mouth splits into a smile as he asks, “What are you doing here?”

“I came to have dinner,” he replies. Taehyung gets to him and pulls him in a hug, even tighter than the one they shared when they said their goodbyes. “And I also wasn't ready to let go of you just yet.”

Taehyung laughs, taking Jeongguk's head in his palms and looks at him as if he were unreal. “I really didn't think I would see you again, Gukkie,” Taehyung says. “At least, not for a while.”

“I'm here,” Jeongguk says. He takes a long look at Taehyung and licks his lips nervously—it’s time for him to tell Taehyung what he has thought about, and pray that he agrees to it. “Listen, I know this might sound crazy, but—my train leaves at five AM. Please, after you're out from work, be with me until then.”

He's nervous about it. There's always the possibility of Taehyung laughing in his face, or telling him to fuck off. The idea of rejection leaves an unpleasant feeling in Jeongguk's stomach.

“Yes,” Taehyung says. He's still holding Jeongguk's face between his palms, and so he leans forward and pecks Jeongguk's lips sweetly. “Yes, please. I want every minute.”

Jeongguk is about to say something, but then a very angry voice comes yelling from inside the building. Taehyung rolls his eyes, taking a deep breath before he shouts something back in German.

“My manager,” Taehyung explains. “Break is over, apparently. Want to come in and have dinner, then?”

“I would love to,” Jeongguk replies, a sheepish smile on his face.

That night, Taehyung pays for his dinner and spends a bit more of his time by his table but by the rest of the customers’. Not that Jeongguk is complaining. Just like the other day, watching Taehyung work is somehow cathartic. But now, in addition to that, he's excited about what's to come between the two of them.

Taehyung, ever the charmer, somehow manages to convince his manager to let him off early, instead of having to stay behind to clean up. Taehyung approaches his table now dressed in his own clothes again, a wide smile on his face, and Jeongguk's heart skips a beat.

“Should we get going?” Taehyung asks, tilting his head towards the door as the tips of his fingers, ever so casually, brush against Jeongguk's hand where they're placed on top of the table.

Jeongguk's heart skips several beats this time around.

Berlin’s early night watches Taehyung leave the restaurant alongside Jeongguk, who is carrying his big backpack with all of his belongings on his back. Still, he feels weightless around Taehyung.

As soon as they're out, Taehyung's hand falls next to his side and finds Jeongguk's so naturally, without the need to even look. Jeongguk allows Taehyung to intertwine their fingers, trying to bite back his smile.

“Is there anything you want to do?” Taehyung asks, tugging down at Jeongguk's arm to turn him around a little, making the two of them face each other.

“I just want to be with you,” replies Jeongguk, truthful. He doesn't care what they do or where they go—he wants to spend time with Taehyung, wherever they are.

His answer makes Taehyung smile, and despite his attempts to disguise it or make it fade away, Jeongguk still sees. “That's sweet,” Taehyung says, a hint of teasing in his voice.

“I'm sweet,” comes Jeongguk's reply.

“Oh, trust me,” Taehyung says, this time grinning widely and not bothering to cover it. “I know you are.”

In the end, they decide to take Jeongguk’s bag to Taehyung’s apartment before leaving for somewhere, so he doesn’t have to carry it around all night. He’s excited about seeing where Taehyung lives, but also nervous for some reason. He knows Taehyung just invited him in for convenience, but it still feels… somehow important.

Taehyung lives alone, that much Jeongguk knew beforehand. He was expecting a small place, but it’s even tinier than Jeongguk thought. The kitchen and the small excuse of a living room are not separated, a ratty and old couch in the middle of the stance. There’s also a small dining table and two mismatched chairs, in addition to the fridge, stove and all the usual kitchen equipment.

In addition to it, there’s a tiny—very, very tiny—bathroom and Taehyung’s bedroom. What catches Jeongguk’s attention right away is that Taehyung’s mattress is directly on the floor. They were just meant to drop the backpack and go, but Jeongguk is entranced.

The bedroom looks very cozy, despite being small. Taehyung has fairy lights on one of the walls, and Jeongguk is curious as to what they’ll look like once they’re on. His duvet is white and fluffy, and there are a couple of grey pillows to keep everything neutral. On the rest of the walls there are some posters of photographs and polaroids, and Jeongguk can recognize Taehyung in most of them.

“Are these your friends back in South Korea?” he asks.

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, getting closer. He hooks his chin over Jeongguk’s shoulder so he can look at the photographs, too. Pointing with his long fingers to one, he says, “That’s my best friend, Jimin. He’s originally from Busan, so you so reminded me of him at first,” he says, smiling a little.

“Is he your age?” Jeongguk asks, leaning back against Taehyung’s chest.

“Yes,” Taehyung replies, tilting his head a little so he can press a kiss against Jeongguk’s cheek before he starts talking again. “A couple months older, but still from the same year. We met at the dorms when we were both freshmen. He was my roommate.”

“That’s very sweet,” Jeongguk says. “Are you still close, despite you moving here?”

“Absolutely,” says Taehyung, nodding. “We talk every day. He knows all about you.”

“Does he really?” asks Jeongguk, mouth stretching into a smile. Taehyung hums, and Jeongguk turns around to look at him. “That’s… very sweet, actually.”

“I’m sweet, too,” Taehyung says, smiling at him. “You’ve never told me anything about your friends.”

The plan was for them to drop the backpack and leave, really. But somehow, while Jeongguk is busy telling Taehyung about Hoseok, Yoongi and Seokjin, Taehyung ends up switching off the ceiling light and turning on the fairy lights instead. They both sit on the bed and Taehyung curls by Jeongguk’s side, resting his head on Jeongguk’s shoulder as he leans against the pillows. The plans of going out are slowly forgotten, abandoned for something for intimate.

Jeongguk talks, and talks, and talks. He feels like it’s the first time since Taehyung and he have known each other that he has talked for so long and so openly. Taehyung asks attentively, making small questions here and then, but he lets Jeongguk speak for most of it.

“You clearly love your friends a lot,” he comments, after Jeongguk has ran him through a series of anecdotes about their group. “Do you miss them?”

“I miss them a lot, yeah,” Jeongguk says, nodding a little. Taehyung can’t see it, but the action comes to him naturally. “I try to talk to them as much as I can, but I'm not a very good texter. They’re going to scold me when I get back home.”

“That’s what you get for being the youngest,” Taehyung says, playfully. “I’m sure they’d like to know things about your trips. You should message them once a day, at least.”

Jeongguk is still amazed by how easy things with Taehyung seem. He has always found it hard to talk to strangers, his shyness always getting in the way. But with Taehyung it’s been easier than ever, like he didn’t even need to try at all. It just comes naturally, and Jeongguk would like to know why.

He has never felt as intrigued by anyone as he feels by Taehyung right now. And he knows his fair share of people he finds interesting and he deeply admires. But Taehyung? He drags him in. There’s something about every time he speaks that piques Jeongguk’s interest, how it seems like he has a lot of thoughts but just voices little sneak peeks of them. Jeongguk wants to get in his head and explore every corner of his mind, learn what all his thoughts are. And, well—he also wants to kiss him silly.

“It’s your turn to talk about yourself,” Jeongguk says, letting Taehyung snuggle closer. “I’ve already talked a lot.”

“I’ve been talking a lot during the past three days,” Taehyung says, amusement clear in his voice.

“You talk a lot, but you barely say anything,” Jeongguk teases. Taehyung laughs.

“Just say you’re not interested in what I say, wow,” Taehyung says, feigning offence.

“No, I’m very interested. That’s why I want to hear more,” he explains. There’s a beat of silence before he adds, “Plus, what I meant is that you always find a way to not let on a lot about yourself. And I wanna know.”

Taehyung hums, as if he’s considering. Jeongguk’s heart stops in anticipation—he’s not going to push Taehyung, and won’t ask any questions that Taehyung doesn’t want to be asked. But he’s curious, and he wants to understand Taehyung a little better. And maybe when he figures him out, he’ll be able to make sense of his infatuation with him.

“Okay, then,” Taehyung says at last. Part of Jeongguk still can’t believe he has agreed. “Ask away, then. Sate your thirst for answers.”

Jeongguk laughs, turning around a little so he can kiss the crown of Taehyung’s head. It was a completely candid act, so candid that he didn’t even think about doing it, or have the time to stop himself. But Taehyung doesn’t seem displeased as he leans further into Jeongguk, making his heart feel like it’s about to combust.

“Okay,” Jeongguk says, suddenly feeling a little nervous. He doesn’t want to overstep any of Taehyung’s boundaries with his questions. He does feel like he has known Taehyung for years and can trust him blindly, yes, but who says it’s the same way for Taehyung? Plus, even Jeongguk realizes how naïve of him it is to think this way. “I’m sorry if anything is invasive, or too close for comfort.”

“If anything is, I’ll simply ask you to move on,” Taehyung says, easily. “I won’t get mad.”

“As long as you don’t get weird with me,” Jeongguk replies, trying to voice it out in a joking way. But he’s serious—maybe sadly so. He doesn’t want to ruin his last night with Taehyung by asking too many questions.

“I won’t get weird with you for anything, much less for asking questions,” Taehyung replies, looking at Jeongguk. “I know you have a curious mind.”

Jeongguk can’t help but smile at Taehyung’s comment. “So… You’ve told me why you left South Korea, and why you came to Berlin. But why did you start pickpocketing?”

Taehyung sighs. Jeongguk guesses this is a topic that Taehyung finds hard to talk about, but this is what this conversation is about, right? There are questions and topics that Taehyung has been dodging, and Jeongguk wants to know more about them so he can know more about Taehyung. Of course, while staying within the limits Taehyung is comfortable in.

“Well… When I came here I thought that maybe I would find a job related to what I studied, or at least better than the one I have right now,” Taehyung says, voice lower and less full of life than Jeongguk has grown accustomed to during these days. “The plan was for me to move here and send money back home to my mother and sister. But then I realized that it wouldn’t be enough, and I most likely would make more than I do if I had stayed in South Korea.”

“Oh…” Jeongguk says, realization washing over him.

“And I just couldn’t go back home and admit that I had fucked up. I’m too proud for that, and I didn’t want them to know that I had thought way too highly of myself,” Taehyung carries on. “Plus, they probably had given the job I was offered after finishing my degree to someone else. So I needed to find a way to make enough money to send to them, and…”

“And you started pickpocketing,” Jeongguk says, completing the sentence for him. Taehyung nods. “But Tae… Wasn’t there any other option?”

“I know there was, but taking two jobs would probably still make less than this,” Taehyung says. “I’m not proud of it and it’s not something my family knows back at home, but I know where to pickpocket so I manage to get tourists who carry lots in their wallets and purses. So…”

Jeongguk nods a little. He didn’t know what he was expecting. Taehyung’s place and the stores where he buys his clothes are proof that the money he pickpockets, he doesn’t spend on him. He guesses that, despite still being bad and dishonest, it’s slightly better if the causes are these… right? Or perhaps he’s already too whipped for Taehyung, and that’s clouding his judgement.

Something about what Taehyung said caught his attention, and he wants to ask more about it. He’s sure that the topic might be a little too intimate, but it’s worth a try, right? Taehyung said he wouldn’t get mad or awkward, so might as well ask away.

“You said you send money to your mother and your sister back home,” Jeongguk starts. Taehyung nods. “Does your father not live with you anymore?”

“Nope,” replies Taehyung. There’s a beat of silence, and Jeongguk assumes that it’s not something Taehyung wants to elaborate on. But before he can open his mouth to change the topic, Taehyung adds, “He just left one day, a little before I graduated. My mom has always worked at home and my sister had just started college, so I had to do something. I couldn’t just leave them to work it out for themselves and just live my life, even if my mom said I should.”

“That’s very noble of you, Taehyung,” Jeongguk says. “It must have been tough.”

“It’s fine,” Taehyung says. “Any other questions, mister?”

There’s another question Jeongguk is dying to ask. It’s been clogged in his throat for hours, but now Jeongguk feels it dancing on his lips, about to be asked. He could ask, couldn’t he? He should ask.

But he’s scared. And this time, he’s not scared of what Taehyung’s reaction will be. He’s scared of the answer.

So he shuts up and swallows it down. He doesn’t ask Taehyung when he’s coming back to Korea, because if the answer is never, Jeongguk knows his heart will break.

“No,” he replies. “There weren’t too many.”

“I can see that,” Taehyung says, moving. Jeongguk feels somehow disappointed, missing Taehyung’s warmth by his side the moment he starts moving away. But then Taehyung is shifting and turning around so he can face Jeongguk, lying on his side and slotting one of his legs over Jeongguk’s. “Come here, then.”

“Come where?” Jeongguk asks.

Taehyung cups Jeongguk’s cheek with one of his hands, bringing him closer as he replies, “Come here.”

The moment their lips touch, Jeongguk feels like he hasn’t kissed Taehyung in years. There seems to be in him a thirst for Taehyung’s lips that he didn’t know about, and he kisses him back enthusiastic and passionately. Their previous kisses, the ones they shared on the street, were chaste in comparison to this one. Taehyung kisses him hungrily, and Jeongguk kisses back with just as much desire.

Jeongguk’s hand goes to Taehyung’s back, resting on the small of it as they kiss. He feels intoxicated—Taehyung’s touch, his smell, the taste of his lips. All of those send Jeongguk’s mind spinning.

It gets more and more heated, eventually. Taehyung is now borderline on top of him, his crotch firmly pressed against Jeongguk’s thigh. As for Jeongguk, his hands have now fallen on top of Taehyung’s ass and squeeze it greedily, making Taehyung whine into his mouth.

Taehyung’s lips are red and his voice is hoarse when he pulls back, asking, “Jeongguk, how far do you want to…?”

The question lingers in the air, unfinished, but Jeongguk knows what follows.

“All the way,” says Jeongguk. “If you’re okay with it…”

“Yes,” says Taehyung. “Fuck, yes, please.”

Taehyung leans down to kiss him again, trapping Jeongguk’s lip between his in another heated kiss. Their hands wander and feel the other’s body, making them pant in each other’s mouth. Jeongguk can feel both of them getting needier and needier each time, just like he can feel Taehyung’s cock harden in his jeans.

If someone had told him three days ago that Taehyung and he would be in this situation, Jeongguk would have said they were absolutely crazy. It’s surreal to think that this is happening, that he’s making out with Taehyung, holding his waist after slipping his hands under his clothes so he can feel how soft his skin is.

It’s Taehyung who takes the initiative and breaks their kiss for a moment so he can get rid of Jeongguk’s t-shirt. Once it’s gone Jeongguk surges forward to get Taehyung’s mouth on his again, but instead of giving in, Taehyung attaches his lips to Jeongguk’s neck. He hisses, throwing his head back against the pillow and giving Taehyung more access as he lets himself rejoice in the feeling. Taehyung kisses, sucks and bites at his skin, and Jeongguk is sure that there will be bruises on his neck that show what happened between them tonight.

“Shit, Taehyung,” he spits out, his voice strained. It’s surreal how much effect over him Taehyung has. “Come on, up here. I want to undress you, too.”

Taehyung shows him a wicked smile before he sits up, allowing Jeongguk to do the same so he can hold the hem of Taehyung’s top and lift it up. He takes in Taehyung’s body with hungry eyes, the broadness of his shoulders and the softness of his tummy.

“See something you like?” Taehyung asks, cheekily.

“You know I do,” Jeongguk says, which only makes Taehyung smile wider. “Kiss me more.”

He doesn’t have to say it twice. Taehyung’s lips are on his again in the blink of an eye, kissing him hard and messily. They don’t break the kiss when Taehyung’s hands travel to Jeongguk’s jeans and undo the button or zip, or when Jeongguk does the same and helps Taehyung out of his pants, even if that makes it more complicated.

Taehyung laughs in Jeongguk’s mouth when they very unsuccessfully try to get one of his legs out of his pants, and it’s absolutely Jeongguk’s favorite part. Everything feels natural, and without all the added pressure that usually comes with this.

Some minutes and a lot of kisses later find them upside down on the mattress, both in their underwear. Jeongguk is now on top of Taehyung, pinning Taehyung’s wrists against the mattress over his head with one of his hands. Jeongguk’s thigh is placed between his, pressing against Taehyung’s hardening dick.

Taehyung moans, the low and deep sound sending shivers down Jeongguk’s spine as he detaches their mouths to look down at the boy beneath him. Taehyung’s eyes are wide, lips parted. He looks confused as to why Jeongguk stopped kissing him, but that expression is replaced for one of ecstasy when Jeongguk moves his thigh again.

“G-God,” Taehyung says, biting down on his bottom lip to suppress a moan. “More.”

“More?” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung nods frantically. “Fuck, Tae.”

He does it again, and again, loving how the friction of his thigh against Taehyung’s cock drives the latter crazy. Taehyung is now fully hard against his leg, and Jeongguk can feel him twitch through his boxers.

Ducking his head down, Jeongguk goes for another kiss and places his hand over Taehyung’s erection, making him moan. He has teased Taehyung enough, so he directly puts his hand in his pants and wraps his fingers around his dick, feeling the weight of him in his hand.

Jeongguk strokes him slowly, his hand dragging up and down softly. He wasn't ready for the way in which Taehyung almost quivers under him, nor the lustful sounds that fall from his lips when Jeongguk uses his thumb to stimulate the head of his cock. He eventually speeds his hand up, Taehyung's hands going to his shoulders and digging his nails into the skin.

It's not long before Taehyung is thrusting in his fist, hips bucking up. He's a trying his best to keep quiet, making low noises at the back of his throat, but Jeongguk isn't having any of that.

“Don't hold back, babe,” he says. “Let me hear your pretty sounds.”

After that the gates open, and the moans fall freely from Taehyung's mouth. Jeongguk gets off on it, feeling a wet patch form in the front of his underwear as he listens to the sounds Taehyung makes.

“Take them off,” Taehyung ends up saying, after a while. Jeongguk sends him a look, and Taehyung insists, “Take them off and fuck me now, Jeongguk, please. Fuck.”

And so, Jeongguk obliges. He hooks his thumbs in Taehyung's underwear and pulls them down, revealing his cock.

“You're so hard,” Jeongguk mutters, Taehyung just humming in response. “Where's—”

“Fuck, yeah, lube and condoms,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk nods. “Ugh, just—let me go get them.”

Taehyung gets back up on his feet even before Jeongguk can reply. He leaves to the bathroom, but is back in a matter of seconds with a small bottle of lube and a condom wrapper.

“Here,” he says, dropping them on the duvet next to Jeongguk before he lies back on it. “Now fuck me, please.”

Taehyung's word is Jeongguk's command. He slicks himself up and fingers Taehyung until he's a moaning, writhing mess, clenching around his digits. He looks so out of it that Jeongguk feels incredibly turned on, cock throbbing inside his briefs.

He only removes his fingers from Taehyung once he's got him practically begging, asking for him to finally give him his cock. Jeongguk doesn't need to be told twice—he puts the condom on and spreads some lube on it, making sure he's slick enough.

“God, yes,” Taehyung calls once the head of Jeongguk's cock is pressing against his entrance. “Get in me. Come on.”

Jeongguk grunts, starting to push inside. Taehyung's walls are so tight around him, almost overwhelmingly so. “You're so tight, baby,” Jeongguk says, looking down at Taehyung. “So perfect.”

He stays still once he's all the way in, giving Taehyung time to adjust. His bottom lip is caught between his teeth, eyes squeezed shut as he clenches almost tentatively around Jeongguk's cock. The feeling makes Jeongguk just want to start pounding into Taehyung, but he knows better than that. Taehyung's comfort and his pleasure are his priority.

“Move,” ends up ordering Taehyung, after a few moments that felt like centuries. “Fuck me now, Gukkie.”

And so, Jeongguk starts moving his hips tentatively. He pulls back almost all the way, until only the head of his cock is still inside of Taehyung, before bucking hips forward. The motion makes Taehyung hiss, one of his big hands wrapping around Jeongguk's forearm and squeezing hard.

“Look at me,” Jeongguk says. “Look at me, babe.”

Taehyung's eyes flutter open and they meet Jeongguk's, making him feel like he’s dying a little. Taehyung looks so stunning like this, cheeks rosy and lips swollen, his hair spread around his face like a halo. He's utterly beautiful, almost in a devastating way that makes Jeongguk's breath catch in his throat.

The need and the want in his expression make it all better, along with the little pleasured sounds that he can’t contain anymore. Jeongguk fucks into him relentlessly, feeling himself speed up a little as he looks down at him. He stares at him hard and for a long time, almost as if he wants to engrave this image in his mind forever.

“Gorgeous,” he says, one of his hands going to Taehyung’s hip and giving it a light squeeze. Taehyung exhales shakily. “You’re so damn beautiful, Taehyung. My fucking pretty boy.”

Taehyung lets out a moan at that, lolling his head back in the mattress. “Yours,” he replies, the word almost sending a shiver down Jeongguk’s spine. “Fuck me, Jeongguk. Fuck me harder.”

Jeongguk groans, hips faltering. He can’t stop looking at the delicate way in which Taehyung’s neck arches, at the way his skin glistens with a thin layer of sweat. He can’t contain himself before he’s leaning down and kissing his throat, hard enough to leave a couple of hickeys, all the while he keeps fucking into Taehyung.

Eventually, his pace gets faster and his thrusts, deeper. It’s then that, after angling his hips, he thrusts right into Taehyung’s prostate, making him moan loudly. Taehyung’s hips jolt on the bed, Jeongguk’s body over him stopping them from moving too much.

“Right there, Gukkie,” Taehyung says, one of his hands going to Jeongguk’s head as his fingers thread through his hair. “More, right there.”

Jeongguk leans down and pulls Taehyung into a kiss, one that Taehyung returns eagerly. Jeongguk keeps the angle of his hips, feeling himself get closer and closer to the edge as Taehyung involuntarily clenches around him. That, added to the feeling of his fingers tightening around his hair, is pretty close to heaven, if you ask Jeongguk.

Taehyung bites down on Jeongguk’s bottom lip, making Jeongguk moan into his mouth. His thrusts are erratic and sloppy now, the pace he had built up completely gone now. He loves the way Taehyung feels around him, just like he loves the way he feels having him under his body. And seeing him like this, so fucked out of it and so wrecked—Jeongguk is determined to make him come and turn him into an even bigger mess.

And so, he reaches down and gets his hand around Taehyung’s cock again, the feeling of it familiar now. Taehyung gasps at the contact, arching his head back so his chest is flush against Jeongguk’s.

“I’m close,” he announces, voice a little bit broken. Jeongguk’s mouth practically waters. “So, so close, Gukkie. Make me come.”

Jeongguk groans. The way he jerks Taehyung off now is different from before, faster and messier. It’s so off sync with his hips, but it still has Taehyung writhing under him because of the stimulation both against his prostate and around his cock.

“Come for me,” Jeongguk says, words gritted against the junction of Taehyung’s jaw and his neck as he leaves wet, open-mouthed kisses there. “Come on, Tae. Come all over yourself for me.”

Taehyung whines, a string of curses intermingled with Jeongguk’s name falling from his lips. He’s close, and Jeongguk can feel it in the way he’s throbbing in his hand and clenching around him.

Yes,” he hisses after a particularly hard thrust, arching off the bed and against him. “Holy shit, Jeongguk, yes, yes—ngh, I—”

It’s right then that Taehyung comes, spurting all over Jeongguk’s fist and his own stomach. Jeongguk strokes him through his orgasm, still fucking him as he holds his hips. He’s close now, so close, and the tightness of Taehyung clenching around him just rushes everything.

It’s only a few more thrusts until he’s coming as well, spilling inside the condom. He can’t help but tighten his hold around Taehyung’s hips as he does so, making him moan a little.

Jeongguk lets himself fall on top of Taehyung, panting. For a little moment only the sound of their heavy breathing can be heard in the room, but Taehyung is the one that breaks the silence.

“That was… really amazing,” he says, pressing a chaste kiss to Jeongguk’s forehead. Despite everything they’ve done tonight, and despite the fact that Jeongguk’s cock is still buried inside of Taehyung, this is what flusters him the most, an innocent kiss being pressed against his forehead. “Really, really amazing.”

“I’m happy you think so,” says Jeongguk, smiling at Taehyung. “Is this why you invited me back here, hm?”

Taehyung laughs lightheartedly. “No, not really. It was unexpected, but also welcome,” he explains. “And… I’m very glad it happened.”

“As am I,” Jeongguk replies. He sighs, and announces, “I’m going to pull out now, okay?”

“Go on,” Taehyung says, closing his eyes. He frowns a little when Jeongguk holds the condom down at the base and pulls out, probably at the sudden emptiness. “Feels weird now.”

Jeongguk laughs, pecking Taehyung’s cheek lightly before he ties the condom. He’s unsure of what to do next, but Taehyung takes it from his hand and just throws it to the floor. Jeongguk wrinkles his nose.

“I’ll pick it up later, I promise,” Taehyung says. “But right now I want to kiss you.”

The next few hours are spent in between kisses and soft touches, hushed conversations and words spoken against each other’s skin. Jeongguk makes sure to set an alarm for the time he’s meant to leave for the station, because he knows how easy it is for him to get lost in Taehyung’s touches and affection.

He’s determined to not fall asleep, and so is Taehyung. He wants to spend every single second there is left with him, wants to make sure that there aren't any wasted moments. There’s an incredibly heavy feeling in his chest knowing they have mere hours left, but it’s easy to forget about it when he takes Taehyung’s hand in his and intertwines their fingers.

The alarm goes off and it makes a knot tighten in Jeongguk’s throat. Taehyung’s expression visibly changes, but neither of them addresses it. They get dressed in silence, and after they’re done there’s a beat of awkward silence before Jeongguk starts talking.

“You don’t have to come—” he tries to say, but Taehyung interrupts before he can even finish.

“Jeongguk, no,” he says. “I want to go. Please, let me.”

Jeongguk nods. He wants to cry, he really does. But he swallows the urge down, picking up his backpack and leaving Taehyung’s apartment as they hold hands.

They don’t get to the station with a lot of time to spare, but the walk there is still too short, if you ask Jeongguk. He looks down at his feet, unable to look Taehyung in the eye and say goodbye for a second time. The only difference is that this time it’s definite.

“Well…” starts Taehyung. “Gukkie, please. Look at me.”

Jeongguk doesn’t want to, but he does in the end. It’s comforting to see the same sadness he feels reflected in Taehyung’s eyes, even if it’s not nice to say.

“I wish I didn’t have to go,” Jeongguk confesses, voice coming out croaky because of how tight his chest feels. He doesn’t want to cry—he’s not going to cry, at least not until he's safely on the train.

“And I wish you could stay,” Taehyung confesses himself. “More than anything, right now.”

The both of them surge forward at the same time and fall into a tight, warm embrace. Jeongguk feels an emptiness in his chest that he can’t compare to anything he has felt before, and he hasn’t even left yet.

He wonders what will happen once he’s gone, and the possibilities scare him.

“Please, don’t be a stranger,” he mutters.

“I won’t,” Taehyung says. “I’ll text. And we’ll talk. I just—”

“You just what?” asks Jeongguk.

“I hope you feel what I do,” Taehyung blurts out. “And I hope that what I think exists between us exists for you, too, and not just in my head.”

“I do,” Jeongguk replies, in a heartbeat. He doesn’t need Taehyung to elaborate, because to him it’s obvious what he means. It’s not love, they haven’t known each other for long enough for it to be love. But there’s a connection, a spark. Jeongguk may not love Taehyung yet, but he loves the way Taehyung makes him feel when they’re together. “I do, Taehyung.”

Taehyung hugs him tighter; so, so tight Jeongguk feels like he could break. He wishes he could convey everything he’s feeling to Taehyung, and he wishes he could just tell him everything that is on his mind. He’s going to wait for however long it takes until they can be together again, even if it takes years.

He feels himself break a little when he hears the passengers for his train being called through the speakers. They’re running out of time now, and Jeongguk hates it.

“This isn’t the end,” Taehyung replies, taking Jeongguk’s hand in his hand and pressing one, two, three frantic kisses against his mouth. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Jeongguk says. He goes in for another kiss, this one deeper and longer. A good farewell kiss. “This isn’t goodbye, Tae. It’s not.”

“It’s not, I promise,” Taehyung says, giving Jeongguk the smile that he has started to hopelessly fall for. “Now get on that train before I change my mind and keep you here with me forever, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk smiles, holding onto Taehyung’s hand as he takes one step back. He only lets go when he strictly needs to, when their hands won’t allow them to hold onto one another anymore.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” Jeongguk ends up saying.

“And I’ll come back to you,” Taehyung replies. “I promise.”

That’s the last thing Taehyung tells him before he gets on the train. Once he’s in his seat he tries to find Taehyung to no avail, and he feels the previous sadness wash over him again. He tries to comfort himself, because like Taehyung himself had said, this is not the end. Not by far.

They will see each other again, Jeongguk will make sure of that.

 

DAY 4.

It’s on the first day of his visit to Prague that Jeongguk realizes traveling doesn’t give him the same excitement it used to give him. He’s more pendant of Taehyung’s texts flooding his phone than of the city, if he’s completely honest. But even when Taehyung is working and he tries to focus and enjoy what he’s seeing, he finds out he feels different.

At first, he doesn’t understand why. It’s the first time this has happened since he started his trip, and it’s not because of his surroundings—Prague is stunning, so he feels guilty for not enjoying it as he should, feels his money just going to ease.

But it clicks, eventually. He thinks of the reason why he started his trip. He was on the quest for something, for that one thing that he felt was missing. Every new city was exciting, because he was looking for it, and he was enthusiastic about it.

The reason why that feeling is gone is because he has found that something, simply. Turns out he was looking in the wrong places—he was looking for a place, but instead he found a person. And now he has left it behind.

But now he has a far more positive outlook on this situation than he had the day before, in the hours prior to leaving Taehyung. He repeats to himself that this is not the end, they still have a long way to go. Taehyung will come back to him, he promised.

He has found it, so the purpose of his trip has been accomplished. If he kept traveling right now he would just end up wasting a lot of money, because the thing is, he doesn’t enjoy it anymore, at least not as much as he used to. Now that he has found his something—now that he has found Taehyung, his absence once he’s gone again is stronger than ever. The decision just makes itself.

He’s going back to Korea.

DAY 234.

Taehyung’s face is extremely blurry during the first minutes of their Skype call.

“Your face is four pixels,” Jeongguk says, exaggerating to tease Taehyung. He sees him frown. “Thought you were going to change your internet provider.”

“I haven’t, and I won’t,” Taehyung says, smiling at the camera. “I told you I had news for you, didn’t I?”

“That, you did,” Jeongguk says, nodding. “What is it?”

“Are you ready?” Taehyung asks, resting his cheeks on his palms. Behind him, Jeongguk can see the bare walls of his bedroom. It’s still daytime in Berlin, so the room looks bright.

“Maybe,” Jeongguk says. It’s not usual for Taehyung to be mysterious like this, so Jeongguk can’t help but wonder what this is about. “Oh, you don’t look like a pixelhead anymore.”

“Just in time for my big announcement,” Taehyung says with a smile. “So…”

“So…” Jeongguk repeats, anticipating. He can’t deny he’s a little nervous.

“So, I’m going back to Korea,” Taehyung announces.

Jeongguk blinks once, twice, and up to three times. His mouth falls open in disbelief, and although a million thoughts cross his mind at the time, he finds himself unable to voice them all.

What he says is, “You’re coming back to me?”

Taehyung breaks out into a big, wide smile then, nodding. Jeongguk’s heart clenches in his chest, because he can sense the brightness of Taehyung’s smile even through the camera.

“Yes, I’m coming back,” he says. “My sister is graduating soon and I’ve decided to come back and find something in Seoul. Something I enjoy.”

“I—that’s—,” Jeongguk starts. He tries, but words won’t leave his mouth. He’s very taken by surprise, but he can’t hide the happiness he feels. “Oh my God, I can’t believe this. I’m just so happy, Taehyung. So happy.”

“As am I,” Taehyung says, biting back a smile. “I can’t wait to see you.”

Flashes of the three days they spent together in Berlin come to Jeongguk’s mind. Their awkward first meeting when Jeongguk purposely bumped into him, the first time Taehyung took his hand in his, the feeling of his hugs and his kisses. Skype calls and constant texting brought them together, and have turned Jeongguk’s infatuation into perhaps something more, something he hasn’t thought about yet. He has been skirting around the thought and the feeling, but he knows it’s there. But despite the constant contact through SNS, it’s not the same. Not by far.

 Jeongguk misses Taehyung like crazy.

“I can’t wait to see you either, baby,” Jeongguk replies, not missing the way Taehyung’s smile turns a little bigger at the pet name. They might not have talked things through yet, but they’re still on the same page. There is something, they both know that. They just haven’t discussed what that something is yet. “Do you have a date?”

“No, not yet, but maybe in a couple of months,” Taehyung replies. Jeongguk pouts, because he wants to see Taehyung now. Two months is not too much in comparison to the time that has gone by already, but he’s still impatient. “Don’t be sad, boo. They’ll fly past, and then I’ll be back with you.”

Jeongguk feels his heart stutter at the words. Just one last push, he tells himself. And then, once Taehyung is back with him, he swears he won’t ever let him go. Not again.

 

DAY 302.

There have been very few times in his life where Jeongguk has felt as nervous as he does now, waiting in Incheon Airport for Taehyung’s plane to arrive. Perhaps right before finding out whether he had passed everything and subsequently graduated, but that’s the only thing he can think of.

His palms are sweaty and he feels like his legs will start shaking any moment now. There’s also a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach that he can’t get rid of. It’s Taehyung, he reminds himself. He has been with him forever, and it’s been just magical. He knows everything will go well, but another part of him keeps trying to worry him, convincing him that it’s been close to a year and maybe things will be awkward.

Jeongguk had decided to invite Taehyung to move in with him when he got back to Seoul. His landlady was kind enough to not give any objections, and Taehyung had been delighted when Jeongguk told him. He had sent a couple of packages with the little stuff he owned in Berlin to him, that are now sitting unopened in Jeongguk’s living room. That had been the first sign that this was really happening, and all Jeongguk could feel was excitement. But now? God, right now he’s an anxious mess.

The seconds and minutes seem to go by ridiculously slowly. He swears he doesn’t wait for longer than twenty minutes before Taehyung texts him to tell him his flight has arrived, but Jesus, it feels like way longer to him. After that, Jeongguk knows that this is really happening. Taehyung has to get off the plane and then go get his luggage, but that’s it. After that, he’ll be back with him.

Those minutes of waiting are probably the most agonizing of them all. And as the people start to come out of the gate where Jeongguk is waiting, he feels his stomach go through free fall. His mouth goes dry and he almost feels dizzy.

But then he sees Taehyung. Taehyung, who is still as tall, thin and gorgeous as Jeongguk remembers.  Taehyung, who is pulling his big, black suitcase along with him. Taehyung, who literally stops in his tracks and shows him the biggest, brightest grin ever as soon as he spots him.

Jeongguk promised himself he wouldn’t run as soon as he saw Taehyung, but he doesn’t stick to his promise. He doesn’t even think about it, but next thing he knows he’s taking long strides in Taehyung’s direction, who leaves his suitcase behind as he walks to him.

Wrapping his arms around Taehyung’s middle again is the warmest, most reassuring thing Jeongguk has ever felt. As Taehyung curls his own around Jeongguk’s neck, Jeongguk comes to the conclusion that they really were made right for each other. Like two puzzle pieces.

“Oh my God, it’s real, you’re real, you’re here,” says Taehyung, a tinge of disbelief in his voice. But it’s mostly happiness—happiness in such a pure, unaltered state that makes Jeongguk’s chest burst with joy. “I was starting to think I had dreamed you up.”

“I’m real, and I’m here,” Jeongguk replies, laughing a little. When he pulls back, Taehyung surges forward and presses a chaste kiss against his lips. Jeongguk smiles, not caring about the dirty looks they must be getting from people around them. “I missed you. I’ve been dreaming about this moment for so long, I—fuck, I love you so much.”

There’s a moment of panic when he realizes the words that just left his mouth. Fair enough, he has come to terms with his feeling after ignoring them for so long. But he still hadn’t let on to Taehyung. They’re still avoiding the topic, and despite deciding to move in together and knowing that what they have is romantic, they didn’t address it properly. Partly, because Jeongguk refused to ask Taehyung to be his boyfriend through Skype or texts.

His feelings of anxiousness go away when he sees the softness in Taehyung’s expression, right before pressing a delicate kiss against his lips. “I love you,” Taehyung replies. “So much. And I’m so happy to be here with you. This is what I’ve wanted for months, so I can’t even put down into words how happy I am now that it’s becoming a reality.”

Jeongguk gets a little shy at the words, his cheeks getting red as he smiles. He can’t help it—there is something about Taehyung that makes him incredibly timid, and he doesn’t think it will go away.

Maybe Incheon Airport is not the best place for these kind of questions, since it’s not very romantic. But as soon as he hears Taehyung say he loves him, Jeongguk can’t keep the question down for any longer. He has thought about asking Taehyung out before, but always chickened out because he wanted it to be in person. There’s no excuse for him to not ask now.

“Be my boyfriend,” Jeongguk asks. Taehyung looks surprised and speechless for a moment, eyes wide, but Jeongguk is so euphoric he can’t bring himself to care. “Taehyung, be my boyfriend. Please?”

“Yes,” Taehyung replies. He hugs Jeongguk tight again as he says, “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I’ll be your boyfriend. I’m your boyfriend—fuck, I love you.”

Jeongguk laughs, but it’s cut by Taehyung pulling him in for another kiss. This one is longer, with a little more intent behind it. Taehyung smiles against his lips, and that’s the moment Jeongguk pulls back.

“I’m so happy,” he confesses, Taehyung’s laughter bubbling out of his chest.

“So am I,” he replies. “You’re my boyfriend.”

Taehyung pulls him in for a few more little kisses that Jeongguk gladly returns, but soon enough the stares become too glaringly obvious. Not that he cares, but he’d rather do this in the safety of the apartment.

“Let’s go,” he says. Taehyung takes a few steps back and gets his suitcase, slotting their hands together once they’re side by side again. Jeongguk squeezes Taehyung’s palm in his. “Let’s go home.”

“Let’s go to our home,” Taehyung corrects. It makes Jeongguk feel giddy, the fact that it’s their home now. Theirs. “We have long days ahead of us now. I need to go see my sister and mom, and other family back in Daegu. But that can wait—right now I just want to sit on the couch with you and shower you in kisses.”

Jeongguk laughs. “That’s very tempting, you know,” he says. “I hope you stick to your word, cutie.”

Taehyung laughs, and Jeongguk rediscovers again a truth he already knew. Taehyung’s laugh is his favorite sound in the entire world, and nothing will change that.

The feeling in Jeongguk’s chest as he walks out of the airport with Taehyung’s hand in his is not something he has felt before. It’s joy, but also comfort and tranquility. It’s safety. It feels like a promise of a long time and many, many good things to come. Jeongguk lets himself get roped into it, get roped into Taehyung. After a long search, he has found his person. He has found his place.